A policy perspective: David Griffin at the Master Class
David Griffin is a policy manager at the Department of Primary Industries Victoria. He is one of 20 young leaders participating in PIARN Master Class program, and he provided this account of his experiences following the Master Class sessions to date.
On a glorious summer’s day in February we headed to the nation’s capital for three days of climate policy. This might seem like ‘coals to Newcastle’ for a policy manager, but it was hugely informative, enlightening and entertaining.
An inspired choice of keynote speakers that featured Mark Howden (CSIRO), Will Steffen (ANU), Richard Eckard (PICCC), Richard Harper (Murdoch University) and Lauren Rickards (University of Melbourne), not forgetting the inimitable Snow Barlow, provided a solid foundation.
They were complemented by a who’s who of federal bureaucrats who provided a contemporary perspective on Australia’s current climate and carbon policy settings. Finally, we heard from public and private extension providers and a NSW primary producer, on their ‘adaptation perspectives from the paddock’. This kept us grounded in the day to day reality of running a farming enterprise.
For me, significant value is derived from dialogues I share with my fellow participants. Credit must given to the judicious selection of course participants, who display a wide diversity of backgrounds, interests and skills, but have a shared passion to understand more about the topic.
So you may ask, after three days of dawn to dusk toiling and pleasant conversations over a glass or two of red in the evenings, what did I learn? Well, in all honesty too much to outline in this short piece, but here are a few standouts:
- We must move from a climate-centric to a decision-centric frame of reference.
- Computer crop growth models are useful tools to broadly define the impacts of future climate on agricultural production. Improving the accuracy of regional climate down-scaling models would help to identify localised impacts.
- We can’t model for the impacts of extreme events on farming systems.
- Adaptation is unique to time, place, sector and an individual’s risk preferences, hence a one-size-fits-all model won’t work.
- Merely providing (peer-reviewed) climate information is not enough to change primary producers’ behaviours.
- Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same problem.
- A Commonwealth KPI is getting program funding out the door before year-end.
- Optimal adaptation responses for 2050 may not work for today’s conditions.
Finally, an unanticipated benefit for me, apart from a great network of colleagues around Australia, is a much improved knowledge of agronomy and animal husbandry – thanks especially to Matthew McNee, Mark Wootton, Lucinda Corrigan et al (too many to mention here).